Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 18, 2013

Camp Invention full of science-based discovery

The Independent

SUMMIT — The formula for inventing a new machine, according to 9-year-old Hayden Wheeler, goes something like this: “First, I run it through my mind and plan it out, and then I make adjustments in my mind, and then I try it out.”

Hayden outlined his creative process while working with his lab partner, Corbin Snyder, on a device to retrieve objects from a bucket of water.

Their contraption employed a plastic whipped topping tub, some nuts and bolts for weights, and plenty of duct tape. The stakes were high: their mission was to pluck a sealed vial from the bucket; in the vial was a puzzle piece that, assembled with pieces other children recovered with their own devices, would provide clues to their next-day’s mission.

And if the next day of Camp Invention was going to be as much fun as this, they wanted to know about it right away.

Camp Invention is a full week of science-based discovery for elementary-age children that requires them to use both their hands and their imaginations.

“That’s what Camp Invention is all about, them being able to use their imaginations to solve problems we give them every day,” said Kourtney Hieneman, one of the instructors. Hieneman teaches biology at Paul Blazer High during the school year but on Tuesday she was guiding the children in the study of sonar.

Camp instructors give the children a new project each day, Hieneman said. They’ll study earthquakes, volcanoes and fossils, among other things.

The camp, which is sponsored by Ashland Community and Technical College and held on its Summit campus, caters to a couple of basic childhood imperatives, the hankering to take things apart and put them together, according to instructor John Bentley.

Bentley provided them with basic tools — screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters and the like — and their choice of derelict computers, video players and other electronics to take apart.

Their eventual object was to make new machines to launch a rubber duck into the air, but for many of the children the disassembly alone was entertainment enough.

“Kids like taking stuff apart to see what’s inside,” Bentley said. “When they do it they get an idea how things work.”

Another group of children studied mountains and then competed to build the highest tower of recycled objects. “We have to build a tall fortress like a tall mountain. We have to make the biggest tower ever,” said Blake Liebee, 6, stacking toilet paper tubes on top of a rickety assemblage of milk jugs and ice-cream cartons.

“If we tape it we can make it almost to the ceiling,” he said.

Camp Invention continues through Friday, and ACTC’s signature summer enrichment program, College Camp, begins next week for children 6 to 13.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.